[SPLIT, CROATIA] — I knew she would be big. I had no idea she’d be THIS big.

It was the pictures that got me first. Our awesome travel agent Ginny had been sending me pics of boats all over. “We want something cool” I’d said, these are my best friends. “Can you find a Turkish gulet in Croatia?”

I’d seen gulets in Greece, they’re so much better than a typical sailboat. I liked how they’re all built around a big broad dining table straddling across the back, not everyone scrunched in a tight sailing cockpit all the time.

My travel agent could only find a few Turkish gulets in Croatia, she said:

“But THIS one…Oh.My.God.”

I became That Guy, the one who talked 11 others to put their lives on hold and go do this. “We gotta do this!”

We all met up in Split, coming from five cities, canceled flights, some clothesless from long lost luggage; others, giddy. “Go the harbor at the hotel, the boat will be there.” “Which one, is there a number or anything?” “You’ll see it.”

Our small army walked down the planks, dragging luggage and hats; turned the corner of the dock and…. there she was. Queen of the Adriatic. “Holy shit! That’s ours? For a week?!?”

Queen of the Adriatic first visit
“Go the harbor at the hotel, the boat will be there.”
“Which one, is there a number or anything?”
“You’ll see it.”

Sure, you may have backpacked there earlier and did The Route — Split. Hvar. Dubrovnik. Maybe you drank your ears and bikini tops off during the well-conceived juggernaut that is Yacht Week. But now it’s time to go back and experience Croatia in a whole new way.

This is what you need to do: Get your own boat.

In 2015 my best friends and I chartered a big sailboat to bump around the thousands of islands of Croatia. Bringing their college age kids along made it even more fun.

Not just a generic fiberglass sailboat or wide body catamaran, we had twelve of us (!) on this 100ft/33m (!) steel-hulled Turkish gulet. A hundred feet of fun. It’s technically more of a motor-sailor, you do more motoring than sailing.

Queen of the Adriatic — a Turkish Gulet in Croatia

Normally you find these beasts only in Turkey or Greece, but few in Croatia. We chose it because of its unique wide-back design, spacious layout, gigantic living areas and a world away from a tight traditional sailboat. She even has a crew of four, including a chef and masseuse. And five separate bedrooms, each with their own bathroom.

It looks expensive, but when you have a bunch a people, it’s actually cheaper than staying in hotels.

Here’s a short video I made to recap what it’s like:

You can read all about where you can sail to in my other Croatia post here.

Queen of the Adriatic sailing route
This is the route we took on Queen of the Adriatic. Zig-zagging the calm flat water between the hundreds of islands off the coast of Croatia, Saturday to Saturday, working our way from Split to Dubrovnik. But it’s your boat and you can choose wherever you want to go. To quote legendary hippie painter Bob Ross* “We don’t really know where this goes — and I’m not sure we really care.” “Just let go — and fall like a little waterfall.”
Queen of the Adriatic coffee and crosswords

The first thing you realize once you’re on Queen of the Adriatic is just how damn big it is. 100 feet long and I don’t know how many wide, you could have a three-kid Big Wheel race around the decks of this thing. What makes gulets different is this right here. The Big Table. The whole ship is built around it. And for the next week, our whole vacation will be anchored here. Gulets are not really sailboats, you pretty much motor all the time. But they sit high above the water, their big square backs open wide to host this big table. Twelve peeps reading the NYTimes arms-wide could fit around it, easily.

Queen of the Adriatic in Sipan
Queen of the Adriatic perch
This was my favorite spot to be on Queen of the Adriatic. Out front on the prow, leaning into the waves. Looking back, smiling. Wind drying off the swim. Heaven.
Queen of the Adriatic breakfast time

Every day begins like this on Queen of the Adriatic. Breakfast, was my favorite part. I was usually six shots of espresso in by the time these pillowheads got up each day. Our man Igor on the left feeding us endless amounts of local bread, yoghurt and Croatian honey. And coffee, to get our sails blowing.

Onboard the Queen of the Adriatic Turkish Gulet

In entirety, this big boat is expensive to charter. But when you divide it by 12, now we’re talking something worth every penny. A crew of four, including a chef, Igor’s coffee, and daily massages.

Nearly everything is included. Gas, transportation and port fees. Two bountiful onboard gourmet meals a day, an open bar, day and night. You’re on a different island every day and go into quaint little villages to eat every night. There’s a small dingy, SUP, windsurfer and snorkel gear. The rooms are giant, but a large for a typical sailboat. Everybody gets their own head.

You carry your house on your back, so no need for hotels each night.

Queen of the Adriatic Ogi and table
That’s our master captain Ogi behind the wheel (not used for scale). He’s one small, wiry and wily sailing dude, who has a sixth sense for the wind, the waves and any Italians on the water for miles. He has History with them. “All it takes is one Italian on a boat to fuck everything up …”
Queen of the Adriatic sleepers
This is pretty much the agenda all week when you’re on Queen of the Adriatic: Coffee. Breakfast. More Coffee. Pull up anchor, ride to the next deserted cove. Schwimbob. Lunch. Nap. Pull up anchor and head to next village. Another Day Beer. Schwimbob. Shower. Cocktails. Dinghy to dinner. Nightcap under the stars. Sleep. Repeat.

Heading to dinner is my favorite thing to do — well, other than every other part of the day on the boat. At 33 meters long, Queen of the Adriatic is about twice as long as even the biggest sailboats you can charter. Which means you can’t just tie up in port, cheek-by-jowl next the other dozens of boats. You have to anchor with the big boys outside the small harbors. We saw that as a plus. 

Freshly showered and some happy hour buzz strapped on, few things were as fun as taking off to shore each night, giddy to explore a new town. The dinghy is small, so we had to do it Navy SEAL style and send the first reconnaissance team ahead to start scoping out the town and figure out where to eat. Others would follow on the next wave. 

Each island a little different, each restaurant offering a special experience. Always sitting outside, under the fresh air and ice cold Karlovačkos, the twelve of us often splitting a single huge grilled fish caught that day. Once pleasantly watered and fed, our Recovery Team, Bruno the Chef, would slip in under the cover of darkness to pick us up and sneak us back out again. Out there, bobbin’, grinning at the full moon.

Queen of the Adriatic porthole
Another great thing about being on your own boat is that you load-in once, but arrive in a different place every day.
No hotels. No suitcases. 
No “Let’s all meet in the lobby at 8.” It’s like a constantly moving villa. 
Everyone gets up on their own schedule, no need to rush, ever. 
The portal is your TV, changing channels every hour.
Queen of the Adriatic prow jumper
You don’t realize how big the boat is until you’re off it or jumping off it. When you get out on the prow, you realize you’re 12 feet off the water.
Mljet sunrise
Mljet neighbors

You’ll see some other gulets around the islands. Some biggins, some modest sized. All noticeable by the squared off back. Some are totally tricked out luxe, some are kinda barebones. So you can find one in your size and price range. We saw several that were twice the size of our Queen.

Queen of the Adriatic Korcula at night
Vïs harbor moon
If you charter a traditional sailboat, this is the typical setup in every port. You pull in next to other boats and that’s your hotel for the night. It’s easy to go walk to dinner, but you never know who you might be parked next to. Our gulet was so big, we had anchor in a cover and boat in, but we loved that privacy.
Mljet harbor reflections

— Last Visited July 2015 —

Millet blue horizon
Sipan sunset

More Information on Queen of the Adriatic

Here’s the listing for Queen of the Adriatic on the upscale Red Savannah website, looks like they’ve made even more improvements since we sailed her. Queen of the Adriatic has six cabins. Four doubles and two triples, so there’s plenty of room for a lot of people. The triples are great for throwing in a bunch of kids, or a little extra room for couples. Each cabin has it’s own bathroom, head and showers. Pack light, you won’t need much. I spent almost four days in a swimsuit. Then you just shower up and boat into town and find somewhere cool to eat.

More Info on Sailing in Croatia

Here’s a great story on sailing in Croatia in the Wall Street Journal. Here’s a great resource article in the New York Times on chartering you own yacht. And a great article in Condé Nast Traveler. And an article on Forbes on why Fall is the best time to sail Croatia. And a good one from Sail magazine. And two articles from Time Out magazine. This one. And this one about nine reasons why the Adriatic is the best place to sail.

Last visited July 2015


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